VDOE Publishes FAQs updates related to the Governor's Executive Orders on November 13, 2020

VDOE Publishes FAQs Updates Related to the Governor's Executive Orders on November 13, 2020

Reopening
On Friday, November 13, 2020, Governor Ralph S. Northam announced new statewide measures to contain the spread of COVID-19. This included updates to Executive Orders 67 and 63. Below are frequently asked questions on these specific actions. 

Amended Executive Order 67 - 25 Person Gathering Limit

Do public and private schools fall under the 25 person gathering limit? (EO 67, updated 11.13.2020)
The gathering limit does not apply to “educational instructional settings.” This includes classrooms, buses, cafeterias and recess held on school grounds. The presence of 25 individuals for “performing functions of their employment” does not fall under the gathering limit either. 

Per EO 67, “a “gathering” includes, but is not limited to, parties, celebrations, or other social events, whether they occur indoors or outdoors.” Therefore, gatherings under this definition on school grounds are prohibited. 

Do school sports fall under the 25 person gathering limit? (EO 67, updated 11.13.2020
The 25 person limit applies to the total number of spectators at athletic competitions. It does not include athletes, staff, trainers or coaches on the field. Additional guidance will be forthcoming from VHSL on high school athletic competitions. 

Can our school or division bring in more than 25 students for assessment purposes?
Yes, bringing students in for assessment purposes does not constitute a “gathering” under EO 67. Mitigation measures should be implemented for such activities. 

Do child care settings fall under the 25 person gathering limit? (EO 67, updated 11.13.2020)
The gathering limit does not apply to “educational instructional settings.” This includes child care settings. Per EO 67, “a ‘gathering’ includes, but is not limited to, parties, celebrations, or other social events, whether they occur indoors or outdoors.” Therefore, gatherings under this definition in child care settings are prohibited. 

Are school board meetings impacted by the 25 person gathering limit?
No, these meetings are not considered gatherings under EO 67 but rather, are operations of government and fall under the exemption found in 4 (e). 

Amended Executive Order 63- Mask Mandate for Children Aged 5 and Older

Do children 5 and older have to wear masks in school or child care? (EO 63, updated 11.13.2020
Yes, under the updated EO, children age 5 and older must wear cloth face coverings when they are in an “indoor place shared by groups of people who are in close proximity to each other,” including schools and child care settings. Under this EO children are not required to wear masks when outdoors, at recess for example. 

The EO does not provide relief to the mask wearing mandate even when 6 feet of physical distancing is accomplished; therefore masks should be worn by students even when 3 or 6 feet from others inside during the day. This is because the layering of strategies (such as masks and distance and hand hygiene) better mitigate against the risks of transmission of COVID-19 that any of those strategies alone. This provides the safest possible in-person learning experience for students and staff.

Exceptions are made for students with medical conditions or disabilities, for whom wearing a mask would pose a threat to their health or safety. Exceptions are also made for those communicating with the hearing impaired. 

Additionally, the EO provides that students may remove masks when playing a musical instrument if 10 feet of distance is maintained; or when eating, drinking or exercising. 

Do students or staff need documentation from a medical professional for an exemption to the mask mandate?
In section D, the EO states that “any person who declines to wear a face covering because of a medical condition shall not be required to produce or carry medical documentation verifying the stated condition nor shall the person be required to identify the precise underlying medical condition.” 

What about 4 year olds in preschool settings in our school building?
This is recommended, but is not required under EO 67. The CDC continues to recommend that anyone “age 2 and older should wear masks in public settings and when around people who don’t live in their household.”

EO 67 does not require children between two and four wear masks, however, it does note that adults should use the “best judgment with respect to placing face coverings on a minor between the ages of two through four while inside public areas,” including schools. Local division policy should address preschool students. 

Does this change anything for staff or other adults wearing masks in schools?
The amended EO keeps the language that requires masks be worn in “any other indoor place shared by groups of people who are in proximity to each other.” As an example, teachers should wear masks when they are indoors in classrooms with students or in meetings with other staff